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Maggie For Hire by Kate Danley

A great book to start off the new year! Amazon descriptions can often be a hit and miss affair but when I saw “WARNING: This book contains cussing, brawling, and unladylike behavior. Proceed with caution.”
Well, sign me up!

Maggie is a magical tracker, now going it alone after her Dad disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She can easily travel between our world and The Other Side, where every fairy tale and mythical creature you’ve ever thought of are hanging out. Her job is to track the reprobates and general baddies who have illegally skipped over to our world for nefarious reasons, and bring them back – usually kicking and screaming.
From the first sentence, you are immediately immersed into a fight between Maggie and a vampire. It’s only when he seems to get the upper hand that Killian the elf appears – to whom Maggie becomes begrudgingly indebted to. To clear the debt, she has to agree to save the world from vampires. Simple.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book (and have re-read it several times since I bought it in March).   Maggie is a brilliant, well rounded, character who kicks ass on a daily basis, and swears like a sailor on leave. As well as being kick ass, Maggie has a vulnerable side; she is wracked with guilt about her Dad and the consequences that led to her family moving to the Other Side. What’s more, she is standalone character – there isn’t a male romantic interest or some kind of romantic triangle; she stands on her own merits.
I feel that this is a particularly important feature, as so many urban fantasy books have lead female characters who are not only ‘incomplete’ without a male partner, but almost lacking because of it. All of a sudden a man comes along and automatically completes her, becoming the key to fulfilling her as a woman and the story. Maggie is her own woman. She is fulfilled, powerful and while she does have flaws and weaknesses, they are hers – and hers to fix and grow in spite of them. She doesn’t need to rely on a man’s presence to erase them.

The other thing that I really liked was that Danley covers things that are often overlooked in traditional urban fantasy books. For example, Maggie wears a neck protector which makes perfect sense. How many books with vamps in them have you read and thought ‘why the hell isn’t there some kind of neck guard for vampire hunters ?’ if you have a predator that keeps on going for your neck, of course you’d protect it, leaving it out just seems to be inviting trouble.

The other characters are equally as interesting. Killian is as ‘Other side’ as Maggie is ‘normal’ with peculiar turns of phrase and working for an elf Queen. I loved little details, like how he took ‘human dialects 401’ at University.  It’s these touches that I really enjoy. Maggie’s family are packed full of awesome too. Her Mum is a psychic and lives on the Other Side, where she reads tea leaves; while her twin sister is Maggie’s polar opposite, living in this world with no magical talents. Most mothers have their own brand of psychic ability when it comes to their children, but one who can read tea leaves must bring its own special chaos – and it does!

This book was an absolute joy to read. I found it very well written, with lots of little details which means you can still find fresh things to enjoy when re-reading it.   The characters are a delight too. I loved Maggie’s irreverent attitude, especially when it came to Killian – who is clearly God’s gift to ladies and used to it. I have been reading a lot of books recently and this has stood head and shoulders above them. Of course I ended up reading the whole series (reviews to come) and wasn’t disappointed. So, go ahead and get a copy – at the moment it is free too!

There has been a lot of discussion about the new Charlaine Harris book, Dead Ever After, especially since the plot ending was prematurely revealed.  I have read all the Sookie Stackhouse books,but more out of sheer bloody mindedness than enjoyment.  I had planned to collate my notes for the outstanding reviews, but I simply don’t have the spoons or the inclination to edit and re-edit when there are so many better books to review.  So instead, here are some final thoughts on the whole shenanigans.

I believe that there is an unspoken agreement between the author and reader.  The author creates amazing characters and as the reader, we get to love them as much as the author does – with that there comes a bond of trust.  We trust that the author will do right by those characters and as long as that happens, the reader will forgive a multitude of sins right until the very end.

However, I also understand that inspiration is not a bottomless well and there are some times when characters have come to their natural end… or the author just gets bored with them.  This seems to have happened with Harris, who made no secret that she wanted to kill Bill off halfway through.  This was at the same time that True Blood started; a double edged sword creating an even bigger fan base while she was falling out of love with the characters.

You need to remember, that there is a new type of reader who grew up reading the Harry Potter books.  They expect the author to do right by the characters.  Sure, some may get killed, but it’s OK because the author loves the characters and has a *plan*, we just need to trust them.  These readers not only buy the books in hard back edition at the highest price as soon as they are released, but they watch the TV series and buy everything from the t-shirts to the perfume. They also suspend their criticism.  They forgave Harris for countless mistakes, the glaring continuity errors, rambling plot lines, the repetitive Debbie Pelt nonsense, and the weird personality changes of all the characters.  They truly believed that Harris would do right by them and that Sookie and Co. would get the ending that they deserve.

She didn’t.

For the last eleventy books Harris had been flipping the bird at her fans.  She could have been worthy of their trust and created a great final book that negated all of the shitty plot lines and errors (and if she didn’t feel that she could, she should have damn well got someone to help her).  In turn, these fans would have read her other books and stayed with her for the rest of her career.  Instead she has alienated them, not only with a book that seemed to lack any kind of passion, but also by letting down the characters too.

I don’t think that the uproar in the Sookie Stackhouse community is simply because Sookie ended up with Sam, but because the ends were tied up in such a lacklustre way.  People feel cheated because they were, and now they are having an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ moment, realising that the previous books were just as disappointing.  Readers don’t need to be treated like they are stupid, nor do they want to be mugged off.  All they wanted was for there to be a decent ending for the characters that they have grown with and loved.  That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

In thirteen books, Sookie showed very little growth.  She is still the same person who simply wanted to be normal.  Vampires not only allowed her to feel that, but showed her how to shield herself from other people’s thoughts (a fact that was dropped in and glossed over PDQ), so she really didn’t need vampires any more.  All she wanted to do (as we were told over and over again) was to lie out in the sun, make coffee, put her hair in a pony tail while wearing her Merlotte’s t-shirt. She stopped fighting for her relationship with Eric, in fact, I am not entirely sure that she fought for it in the first place; nor did she show any understanding of vampire politics or a desire to learn about it even when she was up to her armpits in it.  Her idea of growth was that ridiculous word a day calendar.  Ending up with Sam was obvious, but the lack of run up to the relationship was disappointing.  The fate of the vampires was secondary and many of the Eric fans would have been placated if there was more of an explanation and tidier ending.  Like many times in this series, Harris simply relied upon glossing over a lacklustre plot line.  I wouldn’t have put it past her to have tried a Dallas style ‘and it was all a dream!!’ ending.

It would have been better for the series if Harris had created 6 kick ass books that didn’t resort to rambling plot lines of repetitive details about Sookie’s day to day activities while she still liked the characters.  While I might not necessarily enjoy Laurell K Hamilton’s books, I respect her for saying that she wanted to hold off writing another Merry Gentry book because she felt that the character had come to a natural end.  This is how you respect your characters and readers.

So instead of spending best part of £10 on Dead Ever After how about these books.

Jim Butcher – The Dresden Files.  Harry Dresden is a wizard, it says so in his yellow pages ad.  He helps the police with any weird shit activity which involves vampires, witches, wizards and other creepy things.

Kim Harrison – The Hollows Series.  Rachel Morgan is a kick ass bounty hunter who has just handed in her notice so has a life expectancy of -5 minutes.  She ends up moving in with her vampire friend Ivy and Jinx the pixie and becoming an independent bounty hunter.

Ilona Daniels – The Kate Daniels Series.  Kate is a mercenary investigating the murder of her friend, rubbing shoulders with vampires and weres and scary things that go bump in the night

It has only taken seven books, but this one actually had some potential.  Of course there were still plot discrepancies, character inconsistencies, dodgy grammar and so on, but it was OK.

The main news from Bon Temps is that Jason and Crystal got married in a ceremony where Sookie promised to stand in for him if he screws up (or screws around) and you know that it won’t be long before she has to pay the price for his stupidity.

Sookie is finally off to the Rhodes summit and is working for the Queen of Louisiana whose territory has been decimated thanks to Hurricane Katrina.  Her position is also weakened because the Arkansas vampires believe that she had murdered her husband and she so hasn’t inherited his wealth yet.  So times are tough and it gets worse when the Arkansas contingent at the summit are being killed off with Sophie Anne being framed for the murderer.  Naturally, Sookie decides to poke around.  With the subtlety of a sledge hammer, Harris continually references unclaimed luggage being left in the suites, and as someone who remembers the 70’s and 80’s bomb threats in the UK, it was obvious that there was an imminent bomb attack.  Sookie is able to use her talents to help rescue survivors of the blast, hinting at what she could do if she went public with their talents.

Sookie finally realises that she has to decide who she is going to ally herself with, as both the supernatural and human communities want to utilise her talents.  Her love life ends up in the toilet as she is pushing Quinn away, while creating a blood link with Eric.

Having so many characters, and multiple plot lines showed the potential of the book, but in her usual fashion, Harris continued to underestimate the reader and cut corners leaving me feeling short changed at the end of the book.

This is the first book in the ‘Legends of Regia’ series.  Forest is a Halfling able to shape shift and shunned by most of the magical people in Regia.  Her mysteriously unknown father was powerful enough to have secured her a place in college despite her status and after graduating, she was assigned to monitor a portal on Earth into their world – a lowly position for her abilities.

She is summoned back to Regia which is on the verge of civil war between the vampires and werewolves.  She is told about the mission that she has to execute, which if it is successful, could lead to a promotion, acceptance with the big wigs and a Royal favour.  She has to act as a bodyguard to Prince Syrus, who was thought to have been killed in an attack, but was instead blinded.  With the civil war looming, the King and Queen have decided that now is the time for him to visit the man who blinded him to see if he can reverse the spell.  It gets worse for Forest, as he is also a vampire, her mortal enemy.

Before they can start their journey, she has to hide him in her cottage.  During this time Forest realises that Syrus is not the playboy that had previously assumed and they go from hatred, to begrudging respect after she sees how Syrus can fight regardless of his blindness.  He also learns not to goad her and finds out about Earth helped by Forest’s collection of Earth contraband ‘relics’.

They end up embarking on a journey (even though unbeknownst to them it had been aborted) travelling through lands owned by elves, vampires and werewolves meeting wizards, shapeshifters and orgres along the way.  There are several different storylines where we learn about the internal politics of each of these lands and how they all intersect.

There is also the concept of life mates for shifters – an unbreakable attraction that happens when two people make eye contact.  As a shapeshifter, when Forest meets her life mate, he can only see her true self and not her shifting looks, which Syrus does under the influence of human blood, but as he is blind, he can’t make the eye contact and make the connection.  Forest discovers this before they leave on their journey when she finds that she cannot shapeshift in front of him.

I really enjoyed this book, and the cliff hanger at the end had me aching to read the next installment.  While the journey of the love story is as old as story telling itself, the way that it was handled along with the concept of life mates allowed it to feel exciting and interesting.   The characters were all well rounded and it was clear that there was room for growth with the sub characters as well. Hinting at the political situation in each of the different lands, not to mention, Forest’s connection to each one as well as her father’s plans for her, shows that there is a lot of scope for future books without it seeming obvious or stale.  A great winter read, go read it!

Finally, this a copy of this ebook was sent to me, however, I loved it so much that I would have bought it

http://tenayajayne.com

http://tenayajayne.blogspot.com

So here we are again, book 5 in the Sookie Stackhouse series.  There are two threads to this storyline.  The first is that shape shifters are being shot and Jason, who has recently been bitten, is considered the main suspect supposedly wanting revenge.  Of course, this is completely wrong as Jason is having fun with his were-pantherism, so Sookie takes it upon herself to go searching for the culprit.  In the course of the story, both Sam and Sookie get shot, but what is frustrating is that the perpetrator(s) were so easy to pick out.

The second thread is based on werewolf politics, which is just as brutal as vampire politics.  Alcide wants Sookie’s help, but doesn’t want to ask for it (more about that in a bit).  She is forced to see the real nature of the people around her when her house is burnt down and who would be prepared to help her and more importantly, who wouldn’t.

So what is happening to the main characters?

Alcide is now obsessed with manipulating Sookie.  He asks her to come to the funeral of the head wolf as she is “friend of the pack”; but what he really wants is for her to read the minds of the pack as his Dad wants to run for head wolf position.  When he tells her his plan minutes before the ceremony, he adds that he knows that Debbie had been at her house and guesses (rightly) that she murdered her.  Sookie tells him that he doesn’t have to resort to blackmail as she’s happy to help, but that doesn’t stop him.  Throughout the book, he just gets worse, I am surprised that he didn’t walk up to her and pull her pigtails to show that he likes her as he’s resorting to such playground tactics.  Clearly on the rebound, he invites Sookie to live with him after her house burns down and seems to think that because he fancies her (get in line, pal) that her gifts are his to use as he wishes.  Big mistake.  Not even the vampires blackmail Sookie to get her to do stuff (yet).  She attends the wolf leader battle for him and didn’t leave when she found out just how brutal it would be (although some warning would have been nice, what with the whole fighting until the death and celebratory public sex, ick).  Given his personality change, of course he will blame her for not saving his Dad and will go back to dating insane were-ladies in the next book.

He is almost like a male version of Sookie, he has terrible taste in women and keeps on returning to them, only to be manipulated by them again.  He’s also fickle with his affections.  Sure, he’s attractive and you know, alive, but he’s also a supernatural being.  I think that part of this book is showing Sookie that there’s more to weres than them being in touch with their fuzzy side every month.  Their animal side is always there and their brutality is on a par with vampires, maybe even more so as their leadership battle and ‘celebrations’ show.

Jason is getting used to being a were-panther and as he has fewer brains than a panther, he seems to enjoy this side of him.   The Hotshot crowd are willing to keep an eye on him thanks to his relationship with Crystal and her Uncle Calvin’s crush on Sookie.  It’s clear to everyone but Sookie that Hotshot is rife with inbreeding and Calvin is mating with any pure blood to try and stop the genetic faults like some kind of Hapsburg King, clutching at straws.  He really wants to mate with Sookie so she can dilute the bloodline too and he’s not afraid to use Jason as leverage.  He gets shot and spends most of the book in hospital, so initially Sookie visits him to keep on his good side, but then continues more than necessary and even kisses him.  With the naivety of someone blessed with good looks, great tan, big boobs and short skirts, she muses how nice it was to bring pleasure to him just because she was pretty.  Agggh, this is what makes me so furious with these books.  Just when I think that she finally starts to get a grip and she’s not completely brain dead something like this happens, showing that she has as much depth as a puddle. Of course, Calvin won’t be impressed when he realises that all the ‘affection’ is just the Sookie brand of friendliness.

Tara has landed herself with a dodgy vampire thanks to her boyfriend, allowing another vampire, Mickey, “use” her.  Sookie, asks Eric (who is still in the dark as to what happened when he was cursed) to sort it as a favour to her.  This is an easy fix for him and after a quick phone call and some fisticuffs, Mickey is sorted out.  Now Sookie has to explain what happened to Eric and makes a big deal about the amazing sex, as well as how he wanted to run away with her, which shocks Eric.  It turns out that part of the curse was that he was to be near the person that he loves, but not know her.  The aim of the showdown with Mickey was to show the power that sires have over their creations and how they can’t fight it (take note for further books)

Bill’s back and is displaying his true colours with pride.  Even when he hurts Sookie (again) she still believes that ‘he doesn’t really mean it’, not wanting to accept how horrible he is because she loved him.  At some point, she  is going to have to face up to that.  He’s a vampire. Duh.  He walks in on her and Sam kissing (which doesn’t mean that much as she seems to be kissing everyone), causing another fight.  Regardless of all the kissing, neither man seems to realise that they are both in the friendzone.

We have a new character too, Quinn the were-tiger who was MC/referee in charge of the werewolf battle for leadership.  Of course he immediately has lusty feelings towards Sookie (which is getting so boring now) and I expect that we’ll see him again.  There’s also a new vampire, Charles who is a pirate bartender on loan to Sam from Fangtasia when he got shot (really? Couldn’t the author think of anything better than a Jack Sparrow clone?)

The storylines were ropey and full of holes, I think (I hope) that the author was establishing some groundwork for future books with the complexities of the werewolf /shapeshifter communities, and showing that the vampires don’t have the monopoly on being a vicious breed.  If this book was to have a theme, it would be loyalties.  Sookie is still naïve enough to think that she can go along and do ‘good deeds’ to all and sundry and people will return the favour.  It doesn’t work that way.  No matter how she acts, the supernaturals will always want her to join their gang because of her talents and because they want to get into her knickers.  At some point, she will have to pin her colours to the mast and have done with it.  It is almost as if this book is a watershed, things just can’t carry on any longer.

I wish that I liked Sookie more, but she continually does things that negate any kind of personal growth.  On one hand she is wittering on about how she wasn’t going to rebound, but then she’s kissing every supernatural being she meets.  There are constant references to her reading books and that sodding word of the day calendar as if that in itself indicates her intelligence and common sense, but based on her actions she comes off as a brainless idiot, never mind the fact that she can use a new word.  I want her to become more savvy and aware of what is going on.  She chose to immerse herself in this life, yet she is unwilling to truly appreciate the laws and regulations and instead she is insisting on applying human rules to them which just doesn’t work.

After a good book in Book 4, this one was a disappointment I really hope that the next one will be better.

Crafty Book Worm

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